The Manatee County School District’s grade went up to a B in 2017 from a C in 2016, according to results released Wednesday by the Florida Department of Education.
“This is a win for the entire community,” Manatee Superintendent Diana Greene said. “It takes all of us working together to improve the lives and education of our children. Although we’re excited, we know that we still have work to do. We’re going to keep rolling up our sleeves and working hard.”
Tillman Elementary School, a Title I school where the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, made the largest improvement in the district, going from an F in 2016 to a B in 2017.
“We have high expectations. We’ve been watching our data and we’ve been providing quality professional development,” Tillman Principal Marla Massi said. “I believe in commitment, consistency and meeting children’s needs. We tried really hard to work with students individually.”
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This is a win for the entire community. It takes all of us working together to improve the lives and education of our children. Although we’re excited, we know that we still have work to do. We’re going to keep rolling up our sleeves and working hard.
Manatee County School District superintendent Diana Greene
Fourteen Manatee County schools earned A grades for the 2016-17 year, and no schools received an F for the first time since 2009. Last year, three schools received an F.
Among the 14 to receive an A were eight elementary schools: Anna Maria, Braden River, Gullett, McNeal, Palma Sola, Tara, Willis and Witt.
The two middle schools that earned an A were Nolan and Johnson.
Lakewood Ranch was the county’s lone high school to receive an A grade.
Palmetto Charter School, State College of Florida Collegiate School and Team Success, all charter schools, also secured A grades.
Team Success was the only Title I school to earn an A grade.
At Team Success, students receive cash rewards from board chairman Douglas Colkitt. Fred Spence, the CEO at Team Success, said during the first month of school they will hold a celebration, and students who received a 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5) on an FSA test will receive $50, each 4 earns $75, each 5 earns $300, and a perfect score earns $1,000.
14Manatee County schools that received an A for the 2016-17 school year
“Without a shadow of a doubt, our kids believe in themselves,” Spence said. “They believe in us, they love their school, and they work harder than they’ve worked in their life to be successful.
“I just know a lot of kids are going to get a lot of money,” he added.
Statewide, the number of A and B schools jumped significantly, from 46 percent in 2016 to 57 percent this year, and the number of F schools dropped by 61 percent. The Sarasota County School District earned an A.
Marie Byrd, an associate professor of education at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, said the increase in A and B schools shows that teachers have adapted their instruction to align with the Florida Standards Assessment, which students first took in 2015. Byrd said the results show teachers are using more in-depth and effective practices in the classroom.
“There is no test prep, per se, but teachers are engaging students in close reading, expecting students to find evidence when responding to questions on reading passages. They are engaging students more,” Byrd said.
Amy Lee, a leader in Opt Out Manatee, a group that opposes standardized testing, said while the overall improvement in Manatee was positive, people should not put too much stock in school grades because it can lead to an overemphasis on test prep.
For complete results around the district and the state, check the state website at fldoe.org.
“At what expense are some of these schools having major strides in letter grade accomplishments?” Lee said. “When we see major strides in letter grade, you’ve got to ask yourself what is not happening in school to the detriment of their overall education.”
Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping education reform bill that allocated $200 million to “Schools of Hope.” The money will be used to entice charter schools to open near consistently failing public schools. In Manatee, Oneco Elementary, Daughtrey Elementary, G.D. Rogers-Garden Bullock Elementary and Sugg Middle all have three years with either a D or an F.
Manatee Elementary’s C grade saves it from being lumped in with the schools in danger of becoming targets for “Schools of Hope.” Lincoln Memorial Middle also raised its grade to avoid three consistent years of D or F grades, but it has submitted an application to convert to a charter that the district is reviewing.
Coming off a year in which teachers were on the losing end of a contract dispute between the union and district, and all of the personal information of the district’s employees was handed over to cyberhackers, the boost in school grades came as a relief to Manatee officials.
“It’s great to have some good news,” school board chairman Charlie Kennedy said.
For complete results around the district and the state, check the state website.
How did surrounding districts do?
By the numbers:
Number of schools in Manatee with an A: 14
Number of schools in Manatee with an F: 0
Number of schools that improved scores: 22
Number of schools that stayed the same: 29
Number of schools that dropped a letter grade: 8
Percentage of schools earning A, B or C: 81 percent